Gary Dobson & David Norris have been found guilty of the murder of Stephen Lawrence in 1993. The Lawrence murder and the failure of the Metropolitan Police Service in dealing with it prompted a damning report from Lord Macpherson following an Inquiry that concluded in 1999. The report famously described the Metropolitan Police Service as ‘institutionally racist’ – though the precise meaning of that term, and its application to the MPS, was contested after publication. The identity of those suspected of Lawrence’s killing was controversially revealed by the Daily Mail in February 1997 when it emblazoned its front page with the headline ‘MURDERERS’ and pictures and names of five men. The paper challenged the five men, of whom Dobson & Norris were two, to sue if the accusation was false. No suit was brought. An initial attempt at a private prosecution by the Lawrence family had resulted in an acquittal for lack of evidence. However, the availability of new evidence – based on hair and DNA samples found on the suspect’s jacket, resulted in the Crown Prosecution Service pursuing the case once more. The retrial follows a change to the UK law on double jeopardy that was introduced by the Criminal Justice Act in 2003. Joshua Rozenberg discusses the change and its effect on the Lawrence case over at the Guardian Law. A timeline of the case is also available. Dobson & Norris will be sentenced tomorrow.

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Written by Cian Murphy